One of the biggest misconceptions about eating healthy is that it’s too expensive.
Yes, those fancy organic, vegan, gluten-free kale cookies may be costly, but the healthiest foods don’t come in a package, and you can enjoy them affordably with a little bit of know-how. Here are my favorite ways to save money and eat well at the same time.
1. Shop the bulk section
When you’re buying dry goods and pantry staples such as dried beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and grains, bulk is the way to go. Not only do you save by not shelling out for the packaging, you also can buy what you need, so you’re not stuck with extras you won’t use or that will go bad.
2. Shop online
No matter where you live, shopping online can save you both time and money. Plus, if you live in an area without a nearby health food store (or any grocery store for that matter), online resources can bring healthy foods right to your door. My favorite is Thrive Market, which offers many top healthy food and natural beauty and cleaning product brands at prices 25 to 50% lower than traditional grocery stores. I shop there to stock up on spices, oils, snacks, nuts, nut butters, beans, grains, alternative pastas and more. There is free shipping for orders over $49, and it’s typically delivered within 2 days. Even with the $60 annual membership fee, you’ll still save a bundle (and if you’re a student or veteran or have a low income, you may be eligible for a free membership). If you have the space for bulk items, you can also save with Boxed, which gives you discounts on larger sizes.
3. Buy frozen produce
Forget the frozen lasagna and the mushy vegetables with icky sauces—plain frozen produce is an excellent choice for the savvy healthy shopper. It’s convenient, less expensive, and equally—if not more—nutritious. Frozen produce is picked when ripe and at peak nutrition, and flash frozen right away to retain maximum nutrients. By contrast, the “fresh” fruits and vegetables you get in the produce section are often picked early when under-ripe to withstand traveling and warehousing before they get to the store, which could be days, weeks, or even months later. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, the nutrients generally start to diminish with time. So, although fresh local produce is your best bet (save at farmer’s markets and through a CSA), don’t be afraid to supplement with frozen. Another plus: If you don’t use up all of the fresh produce you buy, it spoils and you end up wasting it, but with frozen you cook what you need and leave the rest in the freezer for another meal.
4. Buy frozen fish, too
The technology around freezing fish is very advanced, with much of the fish flash-frozen right on the boat, so it’s a very healthy option. Frozen fish is still less expensive than fresh, and there’s less waste because you control how much you thaw at a time.
5. Choose store brands
Store brands, also known as private label, have come a long way from the “generics” of years past. Whole Foods 365, Trader Joe’s brand, Costco’s Kirkland Signature and other store brands are generally well rated by consumers. Of course, with any packaged food, always read the ingredient list to make sure you’re getting clean, recognizable ingredients.
6. Batch cook
One of the best ways to save money is to plan and batch cook your meals. Spending just an hour or two cooking on the weekends can save you time during the week, so you eat more homemade items and less pricey takeout. Plus, meal planning and batch cooking can save you from wasting food.